ROXBURY, Mass. -- A consistent down low attack combined with its patented stingy defense played a big role in East Boston's tournament win on Thursday, while a little assistance from New Mission on the side certainly did not hurt.
In what was a tough mental day for the Titans, East Boston dominated New Mission 62-43 at Madison Park to advance to the finals of the Boston City League tournament.
The North division regular season champs will face division runner-up and rival Madison Park (16-2) on the same court at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow.
“We just played some solid man-to-man,” said Eastie coach Malcolm Smith. “We wanted to get inside points today, whether that was going to come off offensive rebounds or pounding it in. I thought we would have trouble with New Mission's height, but these guys really worked hard on boxing out.”
Lapses in judgment dug a hole for the Titans (12-5) early, while the Jets' ability to capitalize helped them grab a lead late in the first quarter and never look back. Seven travels in the first eight and a half minutes allowed Eastie (15-4) to score nine straight points and go up 15-6 early in the second quarter.
After scoring one off a quarter opening technical by New Mission for sending out six men, senior Kyle Fox managed to create a three-point play off a steal for a layup and a forced a one-and-one. Two Titan travels and a steal later, junior Pat Santos finger-rolled a breakaway score to finish the run.
“I just look to attack the basket and avoid the defender,” said Fox. “Coach said 'Be patient, slow it down and let the game come to me'.”
Fox rushed the rim all night to lead the game in scoring with 17 points, while Santos fronted the Jets on defense with 11 strips. EB junior Kenny Ramos also had 9 points and 10 rebounds.
“I do not know where Santos has been the past seven games, but today he showed up,” said Smith. “He was pestering everyone and keeping their guys in front of him like we have always preached about.”
After a fade away trey by senior Elgino Jean placed EB up 22-9, the Titans grabbed some momentum with the emergence of 6-foot-3 junior center Isshiah Coleman late in the first half.
Rotating off his first shot-block of the game, Coleman hit the open floor for a wide open dunk at 1:23. Attacking the baseline on the next drive, the junior cut under the back board, curled in a layup and forced a foul shot for three points and a 22-17 halftime margin.
“Our game plan was to break their pressure and get weak side layups,” said New Mission coach Cory McCarthy. “It was happening, but the guards stopped running the offense. We have a young team and we need guys to step up as leaders.”
Two straight put-backs by Ramos and Jean got the Jets rolling again to open the half with a 26-17 lead. Two minutes later Eastie found Fox open on the sidelines for a three-pointer to spread the margin into double-digits.
The Titans, who faced a 17 to 11 steals deficit, never mounted any second half streaks. A pair of third quarter three-pointers by junior Kordell Harris and two fourth quarter dunks by Coleman were the last signs of breath for New Mission.
Producing all 20 final-quarter points from within the paint, the Jets forced eight points of free throws and 12 from tip-ins to put New Mission away in the final quarter.
“When the 'bigs' get in foul trouble the game becomes easier,” said Fox. “Rotation was key defensively.”
Eastie, who lost 63-56 to Charlestown in last year's finals, will be looking to grab its first league title since 2008. The Jets have already defeated finals opponent MP twice this season, with scores of 61-59 and 68-42, respectively.
“It is hard to beat a team three times,” said Smith. “(We will) have to play all the way to the end. It is going to be difficult, but it is going to be a challenge we will relish.”